Kerry 'Not Aware' of State Dept. Impeding Congressional Probe Into Benghazi

Susan Jones | April 17, 2013 | 10:49am EDT
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Secretary of State John Kerry (AP File Photo)

( - Secretary of State John Kerry reminded the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday that he was "on the other side of the podium" when U.S. interests came under attack in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, and he said if the State Department is trying to impede the committee's investigation into embassy security, he's "not aware" of it.

"There's certainly no position by me to delay anything," Kerry said, "and I was not aware that -- you know, if there's anything that is appropriate to turn over." Kerry said he wants to check "historical precedent" regarding investigative and FBI documents relating to the terror attack.

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Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) told Kerry that instead of handing over documents and records requested by the committee, as has happened in the past, the State Department "has insisted that the committee staff sift through thousands of pages of materials in a room in which they are monitored by the Department. And they can't remove any or make electronic copies of those documents," Royce said.

"Mr. Secretary, these are unclassified documents that relate to the critical issue of embassy security. And the Department is literally spending thousands of taxpayer dollars a week to slow the progress of the committee's review. So this has resulted in a great deal of wasted time and money. I think it runs contrary to the administration's promise of increased transparency. And I hope you will reconsider the department's position on this issue," Royce concluded.

Kerry, after telling Royce he was unaware of the situation, promised, "I'll work with you. And you'll have me up here again. And if I haven't worked with you, I'm sure I'll know about it. So I promise you we'll work together to try to do that."

"In fairness," Kerry told the Foreign Relations Committee, "I think the administration has testified eight times, has briefed 20 times -- Secretary (Hillary) Clinton spent five hours answering questions before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; 25,000 documents already have been turned over; video of the actual event has been made available to members to see. If you haven't seen it, I urge you to see it, because it is enormously helpful in understanding the flow of events and what happened.

"And the people who were involved have all been interviewed, and not only interviewed, but those FBI interviews were made part of the record, and in an unprecedented way, have been made available to the Congress in order to read, verbatim, those testimonies. So, if you have additional questions, or you think there's some document that somehow you need, I'll work with you to try to get it and see if we can provide that to you," Kerry said.

Who saw the cable from Ambassador Stevens?

Later in the hearing, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) asked Kerry to name the State Department official who saw the cable from U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, in which he requested additional security at the U.S. mission in Benghazi.

McCaul said he was disappointed with former Secretary Clinton's response that that same question, because she "did not say who received the cable specifically and what specific actions were taken in response to what I consider to be a cry for help from our ambassador to our State Department in Washington that possibly could have  prevented that tragic event form occurring."

McCaul asked Kerry, "Mr. Secretary, can you tell me which individual or individuals saw this cable and what specific actions were taken?"

"Uh, I can't tell you which one, because there is a process going on right now which is supposed to come to me very shortly, which is internal review and analysis of who did what, and who may have or may not have made the right judgement or no judgement or whatever, and I have to act on that," Kerry responded.

"So I have not seen that yet, and I don't want to -- I'm not going to prejudice anything that I have to do here."

Kerry said he would wait for the "internal administrative process" to play out.

"But I know that it's coming, and I'll then know exactly who made what decision -- or didn't -- and I'll have some responsibility to act one way or another."

"Can I have your assurance that you'll let this committee know which individuals actually received that cable and what response was taken?" McCaul asked.

"Sure," Kerry said. "You have a right to know."

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